1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2008)
A merciless depiction of life under the Romanian Ceausescu regime, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is horribly compelling viewing.
The story of two women, one of whom is seeking an illegal abortion, Cristian Mungiu’s film is composed of impassive long takes, forcing us to take long glances into the abyss where we’d rather not venture. Agonizingly tense and beautifully acted, the film doesn’t make a claim for the pro or anti-abortion debate. Instead, it takes a step back and leaves the viewer to make their own mind up, a brave position to occupy. Digging out the humanity amid an emotional wasteland, it’s a remarkable achievement, and deservedly won the 2007 Palme D’Or at Cannes.
2. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
When done properly, a genuinely unpredictable film is a joy to behold and throughout Punch-Drunk Love, director Paul Thomas Anderson keeps us gleefully off-balance. What’s it all about? Well, at the centre is a charming romance between Adam Sandler’s business owner and Emily Watson’s mystery woman. More than that though, it’s about the collision between formality and spontaneity, between random chance and the boredom of routine. Anderson’s mobile camera mirrors the unpredictability of his script but most important is the sound: a dazzling collision of musical genres and rich ambience that is quite hypnotic. He even directs Sandler into delivering a terrific performance -now that’s an achievement.
3. Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984)
It was remade in 2011 but there’s no matching the fun and energy of the original Footloose. Even after all these years, it’s a major feel-good experience, with memorable set-pieces (the tractor duel; the Let’s Hear It For the Boy montage) and great performances. Underneath is cheesy facade, however, is a thoughtful exploration of free will versus public control, and of religion versus pop music, heady stuff for a film in which Kevin Bacon gyrates around a warehouse on his own. Like all great movies, there are moments of grit and charm, and the unveiling of Chris Penn’s inner dancing god is wonderful to behold. RIP Nice Guy Eddie.